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Sipitang Express is one of the popular bus operators in Sabah, and the only one to offer the international Kota Kinabalu – Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei) bus service under their subsidiary Jesselton Express. This journey is probably one of the most unique bus journeys in the world, departing once daily, which gives you a whopping 8 immigration stamps in your passport when on the full route from KK to BSB, crossing western Sabah, eastern Sarawak (Lawas), into Temburong on the mountainous eastern part of Brunei, back into Sarawak (Limbang), and finally Brunei-Muara on the main western part of Brunei.
I purchased my ticket off Easybook about one month before this journey, not wanting to risk not having a seat since there is only one such bus daily. Tickets are sold under Sipitang Express for the Jesselton Express Kota Kinabalu – Bandar Seri Begawan bus service.
The Jesselton Express Kota Kinabalu – Bandar Seri Begawan bus service departs once daily at 8am from City Park Bus Terminal, right in the heart of downtown KK.
A bunch of other southbound buses also depart from here.
The ticket counters at City Park Bus Terminal.
Sipitang Express‘s counter is the one on the extreme right. The Easybook printout must be exchanged for the actual ticket at this counter before departure.
The Jesselton Express bus to Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei is parked just in front of the counter. I’m actually pretty surprised to see the modern SKSBus e5 Modulr in East Malaysia, let alone on an international bus to Brunei. At least even with the 2+2 seating, the seat would be relatively comfortable.
The destination sign of the bus to Brunei.
Half of the passengers had boarded about 15 minutes before departure.
Easybook advertisements on the head rest covers.
The signature e5 emboss on the seat.
The typical legroom of the 44-seater bus.
The Sipitang Express ticket was printed on thermal paper. (Boo.) The small portion of the ticket is for the driver to take before departure.
Two immigration cards for Brunei were also provided, since you would enter Brunei twice to actually get to Bandar Seri Begawan.
Jesselton Express operates with two drivers on this 9-hour journey. The non-driving driver acts as the conductor before departure, counting off the number of passengers and checking for tickets.
The bus was rather full. Aside from Bandar Seri Begawan, the bus would also make stops at Lawas and Limbang.
The 2018 movie Skyscraper was played upon departure. The AV equipment on the e5 was pretty good, and the sound was actually close to cinema quality.
Passing by the Malaysia Monument on the way out of the terminal.
Passing by Centre Point Sabah.
Flying past the underused KK Sentral.
It’s pretty underutilised, but between getting the bus from here as compared with City Park, I’d take the latter any time.
Skirting around KK Airport’s runway.
Officially exiting Kota Kinabalu.
Passing by KK Airport.
Skirting by the sea at Putatan.
Crossing the railway tracks at Kinarut.
After Kinarut, the Pan-Borneo Highway pretty much looks like this – a single-lane dual carriageway.
Some road widening project seems to be taking place though.
On other, more spacious parts, the new road seems to take on a new alignment.
The bus makes a 20-minute rest stop at Lumat Transit along the Pan-Borneo Highway at Kampung Lumat.
As compared to highways on Peninsular Malaysia, this R&R is just a simple turn-off from the main road.
Toilets are available here at 30 sen (~S$0.10/~B$0.10) per entry.
Snacks and drinks are available as well, but I didn’t purchase any since I just had breakfast before boarding, and the bus had no on-board toilets for me to binge on drinks.
The (almost) empty interior of the Jesselton Express bus to Brunei.
Seats are in a 2+2 formation, just like most, if not all other buses in Sabah. However, the new SKSBus seats has a moulded headrest for a more comfortable sitting position.
The Jesselton Express bus at Lumat Transit.
After departure from Lumat Transit, the famous Wong Fei-hung movie was played.
Passing by the outskirts of Beaufort.
The bus does not make a stop at Beaufort, only passing through it.
Sipitang is a seaside town, and it’s probably safe to assume that it’s the home base of Sipitang Express.
The bus did make a stop at Sipitang Bus Terminal to pick up some passengers, however, no one alighted here. (Also possibly due to Sipitang tickets not being sold on this bus, as the actual Sipitang departure from KK is at 7.30am.)
Departing from Sipitang Bus Terminal.
The scenery along the way out of Sabah.
Entering the Sindumin – Merapok Immigration Post, the start of the passport stamp collection.
Sindumin – Merapok Immigration Post lies on the border of Sabah and Sarawak.
Special safeguards have been included in the Constitution of Malaysia to protect the interests of the Sarawakians in the Malaysian federation. As such, Sarawak has their own control over immigration in and out of their state.
Unlike land checkpoints on Peninsular Malaysia, there is just a single lane for all vehicles.
Alighting from the bus for immigration.
Passports are stamped at the regular counter by the road.
However, as this is a Malaysia-to-Malaysia immigration, the system was rather efficient with you handing your passport to the first staff in the counter for exiting Sabah, and he hands over your passport to the Sarawak officer, and then you get your passport back from the Sarawak officer, with an exit stamp for West Malaysia and Sabah, and an entry stamp for Sarawak.
Passport Stamp 1: Exit from West Malaysia & Sabah (Sindumin)
Passport Stamp 2: Entry to Sarawak (Merapok)
Toilets are available after immigration.
The “Welcome to Sarawak” sign after the immigration post – my first time into Sarawak.
How the Sabah-Sarawak immigration counter looks like.
Going around the Merapok Roundabout.
First sights of Sarawak.
Crossing the Pengalih Bridge.
Lawas sits on the riverside of Sungai Merapok.
Turning into Lawas Bus Terminal.
The bus stops here at Lawas Bus Terminal to alight passengers bound for Lawas, and a 1-hour lunch break for everyone else.
The bus will depart again at 1pm, as announced by the drivers.
It’s quite a simple bus terminal here, with Jesselton Express being the only bus parked at the moment.
There are quite a few lunch options in Lawas, with some coffee shops around and the main Lawas market, Pasar Besar Lawas, just outside of the terminal.
However, as I went there on a Sunday, almost all shops were closed at Pasar Besar Lawas, so I went with the KFC option – one that the drivers took as well.
Crossing back to Lawas Bus Terminal after lunch.
This time, there are two Jeselton Express buses waiting at the terminal already, with the eastbound bus to KK having arrived from BSB.
The two Jesselton Express e5s parked at Lawas Bus Terminal.
Make sure you find the right bus.
The Jesselton Express ticket counter at Lawas Bus Terminal.
Information on the Jesselton Express fleet, fare, timetable and photos of their crew are also in their office.
Both buses will meet at Lawas as the midpoint of the journey.
There are signs at the door of the bus specifically saying no durians are allowed on board, and I think I can see why when there’s a durian sale right at the terminal.
The interior of the Jesselton Express bus (again). This time, the bus departed about half-full, made up of some continuing on to Limbang and BSB, and some very few people picked up at Lawas.
Upon departure, the bus played the third movie – Taxi 5, a 2018 French comedy.
Departing Lawas Bus Terminal.
Heading off to Mengkalap.
Entering Mengkalap Immigration Post.
The queue for immigration was at the regular car counter.
Passport Stamp 3: Exit from Sarawak (Mengkalap)
Re-boarding the bus after immigration. This is the start to the passport stamp marathon.
Departing from Malaysia for the first time in this bus journey.
Entering Labu Temporary Control Post Temburong.
Here, there is a separate bus and truck lane. However, the queue for immigration was also along the road.
Passport Stamp 4: Entry into Brunei (Labu)
Re-boarding the bus after immigration.
My first sights of Brunei.
The SKSBus e5 Modulr in Brunei.
The scenery still looks like Malaysia here.
Nearing to Bangar, the road looks strangely familiar.
Hmm, where have I seen that kind of white sign before?
The Bangar riverfront, possibly for speedboats to Bandar Seri Begawan.
Hmm, the zebra crossing sign, raised crossing and lane arrows look very familiar too.
Back onto the rural road to Pandaruan.
Entering Pandaruan Immigration Post, concluding my first-ever trip to Brunei.
Immigration is in a dedicated air-conditioned room here. However, the queue got a bit longer than the previous immigration times as there was another bus ahead.
Passport Stamp 5: Exit from Brunei (Pandaruan)
Re-boarding the bus after immigration.
Yup, the font and style of the sign is definitely familiar.
So is the ridiculous 50km/h speed limit on regular roads.
Crossing the Pandaruan Bridge or Brunei–Malaysia Friendship Bridge over the Pandaruan River to Limbang. This is a surprisingly new bridge, which opened only in 2013, replacing the cross-river ferry service.
Looking back at Pandaruan Bridge.
Entering Pandaruan CIQ.
Back in Malaysia, with no separate bus counter.
Queuing in front of the bus for immigration. (Sorry to all cars behind.)
Passport Stamp 6: Entry into Sarawak (Pandaruan)
Re-boarding the bus after immigration.
Exiting Pandaruan CIQ.
Back in Malaysia for the second time in this bus journey.
The road to Limbang was rather twisty.
Passing by Limbang’s old airport.
The old airport terminal still stands.
Arrived at Limbang.
About half of the half-full bus alighted here at Limbang, so it was pretty spacious from here on. The bus picked up another 4 passengers or so, which didn’t make much of a difference.
Some who do not have Brunei Dollars yet also alighted here to change money.
Departing Limbang Bus Terminal (?).
Limbang has a very old world charm.
It’s mixed with a pretty modern promenade, so it’s a little confusing too.
The scenery on the way to Tedungan.
Along the way, it started raining.
It was raining pretty heavily, and the driver slowed down quite a bit.
Thankfully, the rain cleared up just as the bus was arriving at Tedungan.
Approaching Tedungan Immigration Post.
There was a queue to enter the checkpoint, probably made up of Bruneians returning home from Malaysia.
Entering Tedungan Immigration Post.
Immigration here is also in a separate air-conditioned room for bus passengers.
Passport Stamp 7: Exit from Sarawak (Tedungan)
Re-boarding the bus after immigration.
Departing Malaysia for the second and last time on this bus journey.
Quite a lot of Malaysian cars returning from Brunei.
The queue for Malaysia immigration literally stretched from Malaysia to Brunei.
Entering Kuala Lurah Immigration Control Post.
There is a separate lane for pedestrians and bus passengers here. The bus (without passengers) clears immigration in the regular car lane.
Passport Stamp 8: Entry into Brunei (Kuala Lurah)
Re-boarding the bus after immigration for the last time.
The SKSBus e5 on Bruneian soil.
Departing from Kuala Lurah Immigration Control Post.
My second visit to Brunei.
Very familiar road sign styles again.
Even the traffic lights and bridge viaducts are similar to Singapore.
With the e5 driving at 50km/h here with these kerbs and plants in the central divider, it feels as if I just crossed the border from Malaysia to Singapore instead.
Passing by the main gate to Istana Nurul Iman.
Approaching the city centre of Bandar Seri Begawan.
Crossing the Edinburgh Bridge to BSB city centre.
Passing by the Royal Regalia Museum.
Passing by the Brunei History Centre.
Turning left at the Memorial Clock on Jalan Elizabeth 2 and Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien.
Passing by Teng Yun Temple, the only Chinese temple in Bandar Seri Begawan.
Making the final turn to the bus stop for Bandar Seri Begawan.
Finally arrived at Bandar Seri Begawan Waterfront at 5pm, making this a total journey of 9 hours from Kota Kinabalu, at a distance of 321 km.
The Jesselton Express stops at the dedicated bus stand at BSB Waterfront.
The bus stop for Jesselton Express is along Jalan McArthur, just before the Royal Wharf.
Overall, the Jesselton Express bus service from Kota Kinabalu to Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei was not the fastest bus journey in the world, nor was it fastest possible way to get from KK to BSB, but it certainly was the most unique with the bus travelling on the one road spanning Sabah, Brunei and Sarawak, with the need to go through 7 immigration posts, getting my passport stamped 8 times, watching the varying towns from the bus every half an hour or so, and the strange familiarity of Brunei roads.
This is the most unique bus journey I’ve had so far, and quite possibly, this might be the only bus journey in the world which requires you to get 8 passport stamps when getting a direct bus from one city to another. And despite having to keep getting off and on the bus every 30 to 60 minutes, I actually quite enjoyed the journey.
If you need a strange/unique/quirky/interesting/time-wasting bus journey to check off your bucket list, this might be it.
This article first appeared on railtravelstation.com
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